Lessons from New Zealand

The world, more particularly New Zealand, is trying to come to grips with the horror of last Friday’s (March 15) shooting that left 50 people dead and many others injured, some critically. Many watched in complete shock on social media as a lone gunman opened fire on the gatherings at two Mosques during the Friday prayers. It was an attack that was well planned in advance based on various now known facts most evident from the live-streaming.
From reports, the Australian-born gunman had earlier published a manifesto in which he strongly objected to immigration and multiculturalism. In that document, he reportedly showered praise on Anders Breivik, the Norwegian white supremacist who killed 77 people in Norway in 2011. That suggests that his deliberate and calculative actions were premised in hate for a particular group of people; from those targeted, Muslim immigrants and refugees.
He seemingly spared no effort in his planning to maximise casualties given the calibre and amount of weapons he had in his possession. The fact that he also spared no effort to have it streamed live meant he wanted a worldwide audience to see in real time his actions of triumphalism; actions that are seemingly becoming routine in various parts of the world as seen on March 18 when three persons were killed by a Turkish citizen in the Dutch city of Utrecht; actions that can only be blatant acts of terrorism.
Some of the victims would have fled their war-torn homelands in a gruelling search for peace and a place to be shielded from such atrocities. New Zealand in many ways offers such and was deemed and believed to be a safe country with its sanctuary city of Christchurch; now infamous for that shooting. While it was another incident of spewing hate with deadly consequences, two things stood out in its aftermath; the coming together of the country and the announced intention of the political leadership to swiftly change existing gun laws.
The images of New Zealanders, especially those with visible Caucasian extraction, comforting surviving relatives and the Islamic community while at the same time forthrightly condemning the barbaric action, are not only comforting, but send a strong message of tolerance, peace and love. Common was the sentiment that the action of the gunman is not representative of the people of New Zealand.
Over time, many such despicable actions of hate crime targeting different groups have occurred and in every case, people from all backgrounds have rallied in support of the victims. It shows that people in the vast majority across the world want peace and tolerance to prevail. It also unfortunately shows that some will do their utmost to continue to create disharmony in propagation of their belief and which is not in keeping with the efforts of forging togetherness.
By rallying around each other, New Zealanders, like others in various parts of the world in the past, continue to send a very strong message rejecting those who perpetrate hate. There must be no place for hatred and all efforts to dispel it from society must be fully supported. Guyana has had incidents that resulted in many innocent ones being murdered. The massacres at Lindo Creek, Lusignan and Bartica continue to haunt us all. Those tested resolve and stability, but in the end, despite the challenges posed, the actions of the perpetrators were and continue to be rejected.
The onus is upon all, especially those with influence, to continue to advocate for the rejection of hate and for efforts designed to promote and strengthen tolerance and harmony to be supported. Come March 21, a constitutional crisis, which could have been avoided had the Government abided by the supreme law that governs the successful passage of a parliamentary no-confidence motion, would engulf the country.
It’s unchartered waters and could challenge the social fabric of togetherness. With historical incidents that tested that resolve, especially with elections as a catalyst, the upcoming period will have to be traversed with a profound sense of responsibility in words and actions by all, including those who are prolific on social media.
Unfortunately, there will be those who will find it difficult to curb their tendencies to spew hate and disharmony. Again, they must be rejected and made to feel that what they advocate is not representative of the people of Guyana.
From all reports, the unity play staged by the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) was well received with members of the audience welcoming those bonds expressed at the grassroots but the Government at the top has acted to tear them asunder.
The Government’s actions in rejecting the Constitution has push the nation to the impending constitutional crisis. That sends a strong message of disrespecting law and order which will naturally cause resentment in some quarters. It is therefore not helpful to the process of building harmony; a process which must be led by the government of the day.
A lesson can therefore be had from New Zealand as its Government is leading in the healing process and has demonstrated a willingness to take immediate action to help prevent a recurrence in an effort to safeguard the welfare of its citizens.

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